Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and chief executive officer of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pushed today for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow some convicted felons to register to vote after completing all terms of their sentences. Flanked by Mayor Dennis P. Williams and several state and local elected officials, Jealous called re-instituting voting rights for ex-felons a “bipartisan movement of common sense” and a counter to what he described as recent “voter-suppression” movements. “We are a country that believes in second chances. We are a country that believes that when it comes to justice … it’s good to be tough, but it’s better to be smart,” he said. “If somebody gets out of prison and they want to vote, that’s exactly the type of behavior we should be encouraging, not obstructing.”
The proposed amendment is known as the Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act. A former state representative, Plant tried to push through the amendment, but died in November 2010 without seeing her mission completed.
State Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, spoke with Plant just days before she died and decided to take up the amendment, she said. The measure would eliminate the five-year waiting period that must pass before some felons can register to vote.
More than 7,400 Delawareans, 95 percent of whom are black, cannot vote in Delaware under current restrictions, according to the NAACP.
“For me, it’s about fairness,” Keeley said.